1993

Cabaret

Kander and Ebb's musical based on Christopher Isherwood's books, Goodbye to Berlin and Mr. Norris Changes Trains, was revived at the Donmar Warehouse in London, opening in December 1993.

Sam Mendes directed me as The Emcee, and Jane Horrocks as Sally Bowles. The production set the action in the actual cabaret club - the audience in the downstairs of the theatre were seated at tables and could have drinks during the action. Also, the true seediness and decadence of the time was evoked by the cast of actors and musicians.

We did a lot of research on getting the feel of life in those clubs in Berlin in the late 20s/early 30s.  I only wanted to do the part if it was going to be an authentic look at what it was really like to be alive then, to be a part of a decadent world that ultimately disappeared. I wanted to be dirty and to be shocking, and to look like a drug addict, and to scare people and enchant them at the same time. It was a very scary thing for me, as I had never done any other big musicals before, and here I was doing one in the West End with the audience right up against me. It was also kind of foolhardy because I was so exhausted by Hamlet, and I rehearsed Cabaret during the day while performing Hamlet at night. But I am so glad I did it for so many reasons. It felt great to do something so different and very liberating to be so exposed - literally!

I was nominated for Best Actor in a Musical at the 1994 Olivier Awards, and the show was taped and broadcast on ITV.



Hamlet

I played the title role in Shakespeare's tragedy for the English Touring Theatre.

The production toured England and ended up in London at the Donmar Warehouse. I won the Martini Rossi TMA award for Best Actor, and was also nominated for the Richard Burton Award at the Shakespeare Globe Awards.

This was a huge thing for me. I'd never really wanted to do Hamlet, and it only came about when Tilda Swinton pulled out of the planned production of Miss Julie that I was going to do with Steve Unwin (the director). It really changed my life. I don't think anyone can play Hamlet without him affecting you in a really primal way. The part deals with such universal and yet personal things: your relationship with your parents, dealing with the death of a parent (and as I felt it, dealing with the death of a parent you didn't like very much), wanting to get away from home and back to your friends, university and your own life, trying to cope with your girlfriend suddenly dumping you when you are feeling really low for no apparent reason - as well as some issues that thinking about or exploring even on a very superficial level can be incredibly upsetting and haunting, e.g. wondering whether or not to kill yourself, and how to deal with your father's ghost coming to you and telling you to avenge his death! But even though it was the biggest challenge of my life to play (and sustain playing) this part, I am so grateful to have had the chance, because it really did change my life. It also eventually made me feel much more relaxed about my work. I feel that if I die tomorrow then I will have done something I am truly proud of.

 



Second Best

William Hurt stars as Graeme, a middle-aged Welshman who decides to adopt a little boy, in the Chris Menges film, Second Best.

I play the little boy's social worker. The film also stars Jane Horrocks, who worked playws Sally Bowles opposite me later that year in the London production of Cabaret.

Here we all are looking young and perky at the premiere.

 



A Word In Your Era

I appeared in two episodes of this BBC2 comedy show in which famous dead people went on trial to see who would become immortal!  Yes, reallt.

I played Mozart (who won) and Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts (who didn't).



Comic Relief: Mr. Bean on Blind Date

In this spoof of the real dating show, Blind Date, I played one of the contestants who loses to Mr. Bean, played by Rowan Atkinson. The spoof was shown as a part of BBC's Comic Relief night.

I got to meet Cilla Black, and she gave me a row for saying my Blind Date contestant lines in the wrong order. I also discovered she had a penchant for champagne. It was very enlightening.


1992

Bonjour la, bonjour

I had long admired the work of French Canadian playwright Michel Tremblay, and so when I was asked if I'd like to direct something at the Royal Nationla Theatre studio, I found this play and did it.

In a way, looking back at it, I can understand why I was drawn to it for my first stab at directing in the professional theatre: just like the films I have directed it's about people trying to communicate and finding a way to get along.  That's all I am really interested in, really, when it comes to directing.  I just want to see people in a certain situaton, watch them struggle, and the come to some form of resolution.

When you work at the RNT studio you have access to the amazing actors in the main building, but I was also allowed to being in a few from outside too, so I was really spolied.  I gave the play a Scottish setting, as I think the sensibility and the issues in Tremblay's work really resonates with the Scots.  So I had some great Scottish actors like Ralph Riach (who had been in the year above me at drama school, had played my boss in Taggart and would also play Tiresias in the Bacchae with me fifteen years later!), Myra McFadyen, who had been in Sleeping Beauty with me at the Tron in Glasgow, Jo Cameron Brown, Sally Dexter, Mandana Jones, Mark Lockyer, Barbara Horne and Hilary Lyon.

This is the only play I have ever directed thus far.

 



Micky Love

Micky Love was part of a series of three films made for Granada TV under the umbrella title Rik Mayall Presents.

Rik plays the title role of Micky Love, a TV game show host, and I played his nemesis Greg Deane, the presenter of a youth TV show that was claiming Micky's prized time slot. It also starred Jennifer Ehle (who later worked with me in Design For Living) and Eleanor Bron (who later played my mother in Hamlet). It was shot in Manchester at Granada TV studios, and directed by Nick Hamm.



Dragon

In 1992, the director/designer David Ultz asked me to collaborate with him on a new adaptation of the Russian play Dragon by Yvgeny Schwartz, which was to be produced by the Royal National Theatre later that year. T

he play concerns a village that lives under the thrall of a dragon, but as the play progresses it turns out there is no dragon at all, and really the dragon represents a fear that they need to have as they have been so conditioned to it for so long. The play was also a thinly veiled attack on the communist regime Schwartz was living under.

This was a really difficult play to adapt. There were so many things in it that didn’t translate well, and we wanted the show to have a very urban, modern feel to it that kids could relate to. I think there was a big mistake in using Spitting Image for the animatronics and then putting a big dragon on the poster. Because of course, there was no dragon, and so a lot of kids were really disappointed when the play ended and they hadn’t seen one.

But I still have a Dragon ruler which the National shop sold.



Lee Jeans commercial

I was a Lee Jeans boy!! My friend Paul Weiland directed this.

He had previously directed me in the BBC film Bernard and the Genie, and shortly after he came to see me in a play in London, La Bete. We walked to our cars and he was driving a swanky BMW and I was in my beaten up Citroen 2CV. I think he felt sorry for this starving artist and so put me in several of his commercials over the next few years. Bless him!



The Airzone Solution

The Airzone Solution is a sort of Doctor Who homage, and indeed features four actors who played Doctor Who in the cast.  It was made in those wilderness years between Doctor Who series on the BBC, and I became involved with it via my friend Bill Baggs who directed it and who was an AD on The Last Romantics. We shot it in Nottingham, and I liked being a baddy.